There are so many “signs of the times” flying around that we need Google Maps to keep track of them. Maybe someday soon Google will develop a new Waze app that will show us all the best route to the apocalypse, with the fewest number of detours and side streets.
But since people have been declaring the “end is near” for about as long as there has been an end to be near, I’m not all that worried about impending doom.
I’m not always so cavalier about the decline and fall of Western Civilization — I am weak and have feet of clay, but in my more courageous moments, usually when on my knees, I see the cross, know the victory is ultimately won, and try to go about my business in as positive a manner as possible, all the while navigating the year that never ends.
And when you’re Irish, the dark side — Darth Vader has nothing on the people from the far-off planet Eire — tends to pop up on a regular basis, and we either tap it back down with prayer, laughter, or anguish, or sometimes combinations of all three.
Like so much in this year, even confessing has a twist to it. Confession is good for the soul, but the new way to publicly confess misdeeds isn’t good for anything. This cuts across all political, clerical, public, and private life strata.
When people are “caught” red-handed doing something they shouldn’t, we almost never hear the words, “What I did was wrong, and I am deeply sorry for it.” We instead hear words like, “My phone was hacked,” or “I am sorry if any of my actions may have caused some people to be offended.”
That last line has been said many times by celebrities who were accused by multiple reliable sources of grotesque abuse of women.
The nonapology apology has been taken to high art in the world of politics, which knows no line of demarcation between rival political parties. The current resident of the White House never apologizes — for anything. It is the way he has conducted himself for as long as the public has been paying attention.
When Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi got “caught” enjoying the services of a hair salon, while the rest of the world has had to live with several weeks’ worth of bad-hair days, she came up with a new version of the same nonapology theme. She claims she was set up; it was somebody else’s fault.
This does not make Speaker Pelosi unique. Far from it. You can go all the way back to the Garden of Eden and hear the same kind of nonapology apology. When God was doing a little forensic investigation around the tree of knowledge, he first asked Adam what had happened.
Adam’s response was to say he was “set up” by the woman. When God asked the woman what happened, she readily offered she had been “set up” by the serpent. Funny, God didn’t ask the serpent what happened.
When we go to confession we don’t say, “Bless me father for I have been set up again…” There is something painful in saying, “for I have sinned.” But like a lot of painful things, it leads to a better outcome in the end.
People in the public eye, with false senses of self-importance or some other form of hubris, just can’t seem to say those words in the same direct way. There must always be some kind of nuance involved.
Which brings us to one of the most un-nuanced figures in Church history: St. Peter. There was nothing about him in Scripture that gives the slightest whiff of him having access to handlers or a crack PR staff. If he did have that kind of access, he should have demanded his shekels back.
With St. Peter, what we see is what we get, even when what he gets a lot of the time is a serious tongue-lashing from God incarnate. Whether it’s his fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy of his denial, or Jesus’ admonishment of him to get behind him, Peter gets beat up a lot. But he never once suggests he was set up by someone, or apologizes for something he said because it “might” have caused offense to the Lord.
St. Peter weeps when he realizes what he has done on Good Friday morning. He is ashamed when the risen Jesus asks him three times to feed and tend his sheep. Adam and Eve, with their eerily modern obscuration, prolonged their pain, as do most of us who follow that path. St. Peter’s sin-caused pain was intense, but due to his humble penitence, the half-life was infinitesimal and the reward everlasting.